He told the Sunday Mail: "A few years ago we were all wondering where the good players were, where were the exciting young lads coming through.
"Now, all of a sudden, there has been the emergence of Scott Brown. What a find he has been. Alan Hutton has a maturity about him as he turns into a fine player at right-back. Darren Fletcher is a guy you can rely on for the big occasion - he always plays well in important games. I know I can rely on Darren to perform well in big matches for Manchester United.
"Barry Ferguson has a wealth of experience and I think he is in the best form of his life. The four of them are capable of playing at any level. Then look at the contribution Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch have made. You can't forget about that.
"And Paul Hartley was absolutely fantastic in Paris against France.
"There's no doubt he will have an important role at Hampden, a holding midfield position that is vital for this kind of game against a team such as Italy. So there is plenty to be optimistic about - and I really think Scotland can win.
"Alex will be positive and has players believing they can pull this off. What an achievement it would be. To qualify from that section would be phenomenal because they faced an impossible task when the draw was made.
"Everyone said they had no chance when paired with Italy, France and Ukraine. Now look where they are.
Ferguson believes it's the ideal scenario that Scotland need a victory. He much prefers that to going out there knowing a point would be enough.
He said: "This is the best way, no doubt about that. It was disappointing to lose in Georgia but Alex was right to play a positive formation. I've discussed the Italy game with him and we agreed it is better to go on to the pitch knowing you need to win. We don't have the mentality to play for a draw. We wouldn't be comfortable.
"It's the same for teams like Manchester United, Rangers and Celtic - all at their best when they need to win. I think back to May 1989 when Liverpool only needed to avoid a two-goal defeat against Arsenal at Anfield to clinch the title. Liverpool were 1-0 down, tried to hang on then lost with the last kick of the season.
"Italy and Argentina can play for a point and be at ease but Scotland can't."
McLeish added: "Walter (Smith) gave the players back their belief and Alex has taken it on.
"I'm delighted for Alex. I always thought he'd go into management. He showed an interest in it from an early age and had intelligence. He listened carefully and took the right advice on board.
"He worked hard to get the chance to manage Rangers, one of the toughest jobs in Britain. He took it on with not a lot of money to spend and brought them more success than anyone could have imagined, winning seven trophies and getting to the last 16 of the Champions League.
"It was disappointing the way it ended but he has bounced back.
"Being in charge of Rangers prepared him well for Scotland, especially such a difficult qualifying group. It was crucial experience and he has matured nicely.
"But his best days as a boss are ahead. I've no doubt he has many years of success to come. And he will deserve it all."